(CN) – Three National Guardsmen can claim state benefits for injuries they suffered while helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Court of Appeals ruled.
Michael Parker, Bryce Williams and Peter Reyes were part of a National Guard unit working in Louisiana in a state of emergency as Katrina hit in August 2005 to nearly four months later.
After suffering injuries in a Nov. 6, 2005, car accident, the trio filed for workers’ compensation. The driver of the other vehicle died in the accident.
But a workers’ compensation judge denied the claims, agreeing with Louisiana that those in federal service had no right of action to make a claim against the state.
Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Appeals Court reversed last week. The three-judge panel explained that the National Guard serves both the individual states and the United States of America as a country.
The state argued that the guardsmen were in federal service because they were activated under federal law and received federal benefits after they were hurt.
But the court found that the guardsmen’s actions were nevertheless in the service of the state, as they were wearing their “militia hats,” not their “army hats.”
“We construe the phrase ‘in the service of the United States to mean a National Guard member serving in a purely federal status under Title 10, i.e., wearing an army hat,” Judge Rosemary Ledet wrote for the court. “Because the guardsmen were not in the service of the United States, they have a [state] right of action.”